It's starting to snow, and I'm anxious to get out and do some winter hiking. What's a good combination of snowshoes and winter boots?
Yes, it is falling! I can just catch sight of the Olympics on a clear day, and it looks like they've got a fresh dusting.
For snowshoes, an excellent starting point is the Atlas 11 ($229), which are aluminum framed and come with a durable Hypalon deck to keep you afloat. I like both their quick-fit bindings, and, in deep snow, their slightly tapered tail offers a bit of directional control. The Atlas 11s also have teeth for traction on steep or icy slopes.
Redfeather's Trek ($209) have a trim design that reflects the company's running-and fitness-oriented roots, but they work great in most snow conditions. Like the Atlas, they're built with an aluminum frame, synthetic-fabric deck, and metal teeth. The Trek also comes with a kit that includes walking poles and a storage bag, a nice bonus if you need either.
Unlike the Atlas and Redfeather, the MSR Evo are constructed from molded plastic. That keeps the manufacturing process simple and allows MSR to sell the Evo for less than a similar frame-and-decking model. They've performed well for me, and at $140 they're a terrific value.
You have several options when you pair your new snowshoes with boots. You can simply take your summer hiking boots–preferably a midweight model–and use those. With a pair of good wool socks and gaiters, boots like the Zamberlan Trekker ($225) would adapt well to winter use.
I'd also suggest investigating winter-specific boots. They'll be better insulated and come with a higher cut to keep snow out. Garmont’s Momentum GTX ($160) is a great example. They’re made with leather and nylon uppers, Thinsulate insulation, and a Gore-Tex liner to keep your feet dry.
Patagonia’s Das Boot ($175) is another good choice. Their tall rubber rand provides excellent weather-resistance, and PrimaLoft insulation and Polartec linings make them quite warm.